Is Marketing an Art or Science in 2020?
Suhasini is an entrepreneur and co-founder of MarketAxis Consulting, which provides Strategic Marketing, execution support and training to B2B brands. Until December 2015, Suhasini worked as Chief of Marketing at GS Lab, an IT product development company. Prior to this, she was with the UK Trade & Investment as Director, British Trade Office, Pune, part of the British High Commission in India, where her primary focus was to attract high-quality inward investment into the UK.
Suhasini has been involved as a mentor and marketing consultant to high tech startups for over 15 years. She is a prolific writer and speaker, and has conducted workshops on Digital Marketing across India. She is an abstract artist and is also the author of the first-ever story to unfold entirely as Facebook posts - 'It's Complicated'.
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Painting a masterpiece based on data? You must be in marketing! We explore that age-old question here: Is marketing an art or a science. Or, is it an elegant juxtaposition of both in 2020?
We associate marketing with witty advertisements, spectacular billboards, and quirky taglines. It’s no wonder marketing is believed to be art – all about creativity and expression. But then we remember the demographic analysis, market research, and trend forecasting that marketers do, and we start believing that marketing is a science. A number of articles and discussions have deliberated whether marketing is an art or a science. As marketing is a field that’s evolving rapidly, let's look at this old question in the context of marketing for 2020.
Look around you and consider some successful marketing strategies and campaigns. It probably strikes you that they are based on insights gleaned from hard numbers and data. Then creative imagination has been put to use to make an emotional connection with the audience. This is what makes marketing such a uniquely challenging and rewarding area of work – the elegant juxtaposition of analysis and creativity. This is why marketers really need to get both the art and the science right.
Marketing is Where Art and Science Meet
Let's consider that you have a travel portal. If you choose to drive traffic to your portal from a social media site such as Instagram or Facebook, you will start with budgeting and audience targeting – which is science and numbers. Next, you need an ad creative. What headline, what image, or what video will interest your target audience? How can you motivate them to click through to your site and remember your brand? What should your ad contain that will help you stand out from the competition? These are challenging questions that need creative responses, or let's just say that making good ad creatives is an art. Once your ad is running, you need to monitor the metrics, such as how many people engaged with your ad and what was your ROI, so we come back to science.
What does marketing really have in common with art? Art has the ability to create an emotional response in the viewer and can make us think or even act in a certain way. Say we’re watching a movie about a character who’s broken, maybe even a criminal. But in the way the story is told, maybe we learn from the backstory that this person has faced a personal tragedy, and we develop empathy for the character. This empathy is a result of the art of storytelling by the director. If we were to simply examine all the facts about the criminal, we would possibly not develop similar feelings of empathy. I’m not saying that marketing persuades us to do immoral things, but it does persuade us to think and act by connecting with our emotions and not just a study of cold dry facts.
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How Does Marketing Resemble Art?
Imagine you went to watch a movie and the promos and trailers started up. What if you saw an advertisement for shampoos but the art of marketing had been removed? Now the shampoos have names like AB150, RQS9, and MT04! What if the advertisements simply listed the ingredients of the three shampoos and some other factual information? In this scenario, unless you were copiously taking notes in the movie theatre, you would probably have no recollection of the names of the shampoos and their contents and probably no specific motivation to go and buy any one of them.
Marketing is what helps to connect products to people and that's an art! Marketing gives each shampoo a name, a brand personality, and a promise to the audience – that you will look beautiful, or become popular, or someone will fall in love with you. Marketing helps to distinguish one product from another and motivates people to make a specific choice.
How Does Marketing Resemble Science?
As far as the science or data aspects of marketing are concerned, there are new developments practically every day. Before the internet and mobile phones became key aspects of marketing, marketing data was limited to demographic data, macroeconomic data, sales figures, and possibly some market research studies. This has changed completely with digital technologies – today your target audience, users, potential users, and competitors generate data practically every moment. As a marketer, you need to be able to collate and analyze this data to carve out a competitive edge.
There are also many new technologies that impact marketing. Mobile phones have enabled new audiences to access a variety of products and services and have given marketers a new medium of communication. Geolocation technology has made it possible to provide information and services to users based on their location. The increasing adoption of IoT will generate more user data than we have ever had. Marketers will need to be savvy, understand these developments and apply technology to work for them.
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In 2020, Will We See More Art in Marketing or More Science?
So, will marketing in 2020 need more science or art? Given the many ways technology is impacting marketing, one could assume that it would be more science. But that’s not actually true – the creative aspects of marketing are more important than ever. The emotional connect and engagement is more relevant today. Consumers face a deluge of information and receive advertising messages all the time.
When they browse, when they are on social media, when they’re typing an email, when they’re using their phones, when they’re watching videos. They have also developed a subtle set of ‘filters’ to blank out advertising as far as possible. Your message or your ad gets a very, very short time today, and the consumer will decide to either engage with you or will simply delete your message or scroll on. Creativity has to be cutting-edge in these times and is critical whether you’re creating a huge billboard or crafting the subject line of a marketing mailer.
A word, or a phrase, or a photo, or a video may connect to your audience and make your campaign a success. And you need really good data analytics to know exactly what that word is. That’s marketing in 2020!
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Closing Thoughts on the ‘Is Marketing an Art or a Science’ Debate
As marketers, our ideal could be Leonardo da Vinci who could write with one hand and paint with the other at the same time! But there’s an interesting story about him. He once designed gowns for a queen and was asked whether this work was worthy of his genius. He answered, ‘Io Servo chi mi paga’ – I serve who pays me. That's what we marketers need – an unbeatable combination of art and science and acumen.
Is marketing an art or a science to you? Tell us on LinkedIn , Facebook , or Twitter . We’d love to hear from you!
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